Tuesday, September 20, 2016

[Review] Other People

Other People, not to be confused with last year's pleasant rom-com Sleeping with Other People, stars Jesse Plemons--you might know him from "Friday Night Lights", "Breaking Bad", or the latest season of "Fargo" (excellent). The film's director Chris Kelly has some notable award-nominated comedy writing credits to his name, including Funny or Die, Onion News Network, "SNL", and "Broad City", which is why it's so odd that his debut feature film is so stale.

For a burgeoning comedy writer, David (Plemons) doesn't seem very funny. But he's going through some shit--he's fresh off a breakup with his boyfriend (Zach Woods) of five years and has now returned home to take care of his mother Joanne (Molly Shannon) who's battling cancer. Oh yeah, and ever since David came out as gay, his dad (Bradley Whitford) has been a complete a-hole.

The film has an awkwardly cold opening. It just kind of stumbles into situations without establishing much setting, premise, character, or mood. The narrative feels like it's trying to operate as a dramedy, but it isn't humorous or dramatic. It's just kinda there. And when you view it as a subtle character study, it's not engaging or insightful enough to resonate. In fact, David is painfully bland.

It's gotta get better right? Well, the film does seem to find some personality after the 30 minute mark when the comedy finally begins to bite, much thanks to David's hilariously morbid and frank grandpa (Paul Dooley), and a scene where Joanne gets delightfully loopy after going overboard on the pot. The drama also starts to affect as the story examines the various ways people grieve and attempt to cope while seeing a loved one suffer. Molly Shannon anchors some powerfully poignant scenes of emotional whirlwinds as Joanne's struggles and frustrations with chemo treatments peak.

Unfortunately, David remains pretty bland. (David's sister is only in the film for like three minutes and she's still infinitely more interesting than he is.) It's to the point where you know the film would be way better if it was told from any of the other characters' perspectives--Other people, I guess.

( 5.5/10 )

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